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Apple shows off watchOS 4

Apple took the wraps off watchOS 4 today during its WWDC Keynote, with VP of Technology Kevin Lynch demonstrating several new features in the next major update to Apple’s wearable device. watchOS 4 will add several new Watch Faces, most notably a proactive “Siri Face” that will provide a display of relevant information throughout the day, similar to the “Proactive Assistant” introduced in iOS 9 two years ago. For example, the Siri Face will adapt to a user’s routines and usage patterns, automatically surfacing things like weather, meeting notifications, photo memories, reminders, news, flight information, and more, based on the time of the day and location and how the user typically uses their Apple Watch. Additional new faces includes a “Kaleidoscope” watch face that displays a symmetrical pattern throughout the day, which can be customized using a picture from the user’s photo library, a swell as three new animated faces for popular Toy Story characters Woody, Jessie, and Buzz.

Apple announces iPad Pro updates, including new 10.5” model

During today’s Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote, Apple took the wraps off two new iPad Pro models, including an update to the 12.9” iPad Pro along with the expected new 10.5” model, which replaces last year’s 9.7” iPad Pro. The 12.9” iPad Pro retains the same size and form factor as before, but comes into line with its smaller counterpart, which previously provided a better display. The 10.5” iPad Pro provides a screen 20% larger than the prior 9.7” model, reducing the screen borders by about 40% to retain the same general size and weight. Both devices now incorporate a six-core A10X Fusion Chip that provides 30% faster performance and 40% faster graphics performance from the prior models, while still maintaining the same ten-hour battery life. New displays provide True Tone and a Wide Colour Gamut, ultralow reflectivity, 600 nits brightness, and HDR video — a minor display upgrade for the smaller iPad Pro, but a larger bump for the 12.9” model, which previously lacked the True Tone display technology.

Apple has also added a new “ProMotion” feature to the display technology in both models, doubling the refresh rate to 120Hz, thereby providing significantly smoother scrolling performance as well as reduced latency for Apple Pencil users. The display can, however, automatically adjust refresh rates downward when the faster rates aren’t necessary, thereby improving battery performance. The new models also gain the iPhone 7 camera improvements, with a 12MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, an f/1.8 aperture, six-element lens, quad-LED True Tone flash, and wide colour and 4K video capture, as well as a 7MP front camera with wide colour capture and optical image stabilization. Both models will also feature USB 3.0 support and high-speed USB-C charging — a feature previously limited to the 12.9” iPad Pro. Apple has also doubled memory capacities across the board, with the entry level iPad Pro models starting at 64GB, and the higher-end models available in 256GB and 512GB capacities.

The new iPad Pro models are available for order from Apple’s online store beginning today, starting at $649 for the 10.5” and $799 for the 12.9” and are expected to begin shipping early next week.

Apple announces Amazon Prime coming to Apple TV

Kicking off the keynote today at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook briefly announced that Amazon Prime will be coming to the Apple TV later this year, as rumoured last month. Although Apple’s fourth-generation Apple TV with its open App Store model provided opportunities for a number of third-party video services to get on board the new set-top box, Amazon remained the lone major holdout, likely owing to differences of opinion on business terms between Apple and Amazon. Amazon Prime Video is expected to be available on the Apple TV later this year not only as a standalone app, but will also be tied into Apple’s TV app, providing an integrated experience with other media services.

New leaks back under-glass fingerprint scanner in iPhone 8, 2018 Macbook with customizable keyboard

Last week a series of images released by iPhoneros appeared to show an iPhone prototype with the Touch ID fingerprint scanner embedded in the back, but even though the site claimed its Chinese source “has never sent us false information,” well-sourced leaker Benjamin Geskin tweeted out a photo of both the front and back of the device in question and said it’s a clear fake. Geskin has since claimed that “some case manufacturers received the final information about the iPhone 8 and began mass production,” which, if correct, would mean that the prototyping stage is over and the company has moved into a new phase for production. Geskin has heard rumors that the iPhone 8’s backing will be a “special and unique alloy of glass and metal,” but provided no photos of how that would look.

Apple stops returning search results for 32-bit apps, hints at new Files app

Apple is no longer returning search results for 32-bit apps in the App Store, signaling an increased push to move users entirely to 64-bit apps ahead of iOS 11, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has been warning users that 32-bit apps won’t be compatible with “future versions of iOS” and the company has only been accepting 64-bit new app submissions since Feb. 1, 2015. They’ve also been forcing app updates to follow the same requirements since June 1, 2015, so apps that would be rendered obsolete wouldn’t have been updated since early 2015 anyway, making it unlikely that they’re terribly popular and entirely possible that many have already been abandoned by their creators. Well-connected developer Steve Troughton-Smith claims Apple’s future A-series chips won’t support 32-bit apps at all, making it a hardware issue in addition to a software problem. Taking all 32-bit apps out of the App Store’s search means they will now only be accessible through direct links, putting added pressure on any developers who haven’t yet updated their offerings before it’s too late.

Tim Cook speaks out on Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris Accord

Apple CEO Tim Cook has added his voice to large chorus of CEOs who have been expressing disappointment over President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. In an internal memo obtained by Buzzfeed News, Cook told employees that he “spoke with President Trump on Tuesday and tried to persuade him to keep the U.S. in the agreement. But it wasn’t enough.”

Following the email sent out within Apple, Cook later also publicly tweeted on the matter, stating pointedly that he considers the decision “wrong for our planet” and reiterating Apple’s unwavering commitment to fighting climate change. In the internal e-mail, Cook reassured employees that President Trump’s decision will have “no impact on Apple’s efforts to protect the environment,” emphasizing the company’s significant efforts in powering all of its operations with renewable energy, which as Cook says is not only good for the planet, but “makes good business sense as well.”

Our mission has always been to leave the world better than we found it. We will never waver, because we know that future generations depend on us.

Cook also promised to keep working toward the “ambitious goals of a closed-loop supply chain,” that were outlined in the company’s Environmental Responsibility Report released last month.

Apple expanding Swift Playgrounds to teach coding for robots, drones and musical instruments

In advance of next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has announced that Swift Playgrounds, its educational coding app for iPad, will be expanded to teach kids to code using robots, drones, and musical instruments. Apple has already been working behind the scenes with several companies, including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, Sphere SPRK+, Parrot, and others, to enable Bluetooth-enabled robots to be connected and interfaced with in the Swift Playgrounds app. The new features are expected to arrive in a version 1.5 update to be released on the App Store next Monday.

Plex adds Live TV support

Plex has announced the expansion of its Plex DVR feature with support for streaming live TV programming using a supported tuner. Plex DVR, debuted last fall as a premium feature, allowed Plex Pass users to schedule recordings directly into Plex Media Server using an external tuner. Today’s announcement takes this a step further by allowing users to tune into available live TV programming directly through the Plex Media Server into the Plex iOS app, with support for the tvOS version apparently to come. Previously, while users could record programs using the Plex DVR, a program couldn’t be viewed until the recording was finished. The update also adds in-app DVR management to allow users to browse the program guide and manage recordings directly from the Plex iOS app, and the company has also expanded its supported tuners beyond the HDHomeRun, adding several more to the list, including models from Hauppauge, AVerMedia, and DVBLogic.

Report provides new insights into Apple’s upcoming Siri smart speaker

Apple’s long-rumoured Siri smart speaker is already in production, according to a new report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the matter, Gurman lends his weight to recent rumours that Apple may in fact debut the speaker next week at WWDC, although he stops short of declaring that a sure thing, and notes that sources suggest the device will still not be ready to ship until later in the year.

Gurman’s report also provides a few additional insights into Apple’s plans for differentiating the new device from competing Google and Amazon offerings, noting that Apple will naturally offer “deep integration” with its product lineup, as well as focusing more heavily on audio fidelity by offering virtual surround sound technology, providing better sound quality, and possibly even sporting advanced features such as integrated sensors to measure a room’s acoustics and adjust audio settings accordingly. However, the speaker will not feature any kind of touchscreen, according to sources who have seen the actual product.

Nuvyyo adds new Tablo Dual to its over-the-air TV DVR lineup

After expanding the Tablo over-the-air TV DVR to the Apple TV last year, Nuvyyo is releasing the new Tablo Dual starting June 4. The $250 device now includes 64 GB of onboard storage — where the original relied solely on an external hard drive to use DVR functionality — but it still supports the addition of an external hard drive of up to 8 TB for those who find 40 hours of HD recording not to be enough. Tablo Dual is available only in a two-tuner version, and is priced at $50 more than the basic two-tuner Tablo; users looking for a four-tuner model will still need to go with the original Tablo, which remains available in Canada from the company’s web site.

Apple’s ‘Carpool Karaoke: The Series’ to debut August 8

After being delayed from an April launch, Apple’s ‘Carpool Karaoke: The Series’ will debut on Apple Music on August 8, the company confirms. Instead of comedian James Corden driving around with celebrities in the original bit on CBS’ ‘The Late Late Show,’ stars from the music, television, film, sports and pop culture worlds will hit the road in pairs (or groups) to generate the show’s comedy and musical bits. Celebrity pairings include Will Smith and James Corden; Miley, Noah, Billy Ray and the entire Cyrus family; Shakira and Trevor Noah; Game of Thrones stars Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams; Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith; John Legend, Alicia Keys and Taraji P. Henson; LeBron James and James Corden; and Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon (who appear to be driving passengers around in some kind of rickshaw duel).

Regulatory filings hint at four new iPads, new Magic Keyboard for possible release at WWDC

New registry numbers appearing on the Eurasian Economic Commission’s website overnight are linked to four new types of iPad and a new Magic Keyboard, Consomac reports. Rumors of a new 10.5” iPad Pro have been swirling for months and have been backed up more recently by alleged renderings of the device and images of cases, but even if Apple has a cellular and WiFi model of that device coming, that still leaves two more mystery iPads to come. It’s been a few years since Apple debuted hardware during WWDC and even longer since it debuted an iOS device at the event—revealing the iPhone 4 there in 2010—but respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims there’s an “over 70 percent” chance that Apple will debut the 10.5” iPad Pro at the event. If Apple is going to release new hardware its software event, we can’t help but wonder if they’re ramping up in anticipation of some new significant iPad-related features in iOS 11.

Apple releases WWDC app update ahead of next week’s event

Apple has released a big update to its companion app for the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to begin next Monday. WWDC 6.0 features a number of significant improvements, including the ability to use almost all of the features in the app without signing in with an Apple ID. The app now provides curated video playlists based on featured themes, a new “Venue” tab that provides information on the venue, and interactive venue and street maps for the local area. The update also adds an iMessage app that provides some exclusive stickers for WWDC attendees to share.

Android pioneer Andy Rubin announces ‘Essential Home’ Smart Home Hub

Andy Rubin, the father of the Android operating system, has announced the first innovations from his new company Essential Products, one of which is a new “open” smart home hub that will provide support for tying together technologies from every major home automation platform, including not only Apple’s HomeKit but also SmartThings, Nest, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa. A touchscreen will provide direct access to features, and voice control will provide support for Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. The new hub, dubbed simply Essential Home, features a large round touch-sensitive display that will apparently be able to be triggered by simply looking at it. A new open-source operating system titled Ambient OS will power the device, which WIRED describes as “the spiritual successor to Android,” and Rubin hopes will be the “open source Internet of Things platform” that nobody seems to have developed yet.

Apple releases second round of betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, watchOS 3.2.3

Apple has released a second set of developer betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3. As with the first round of betas, these all include only minor updates and bug fixes. iOS 11 is expected to be debuted next week at WWDC, with a public release likely to follow alongside the new iPhone models in the fall.

Apple developing dedicated AI chip

Apple is working on building artificial intelligence technology directly into its hardware, a new report by Bloomberg reveals. According to a “person familiar with the matter,” Apple is developing a new processor, dubbed the “Apple Neural Engine,” that will be dedicated to AI-related tasks. The goal is to improve how AI tasks such as facial recognition and speech recognition are handled by incorporating it into a specialized hardware chip that would optimize performance as well as providing for more advanced capabilities. Complex AI tasks are currently handled by software processes that use the existing CPU and GPU hardware, requiring the workload to be shared with other tasks being performed on the device. A dedicated module would ensure that AI-related tasks are handled more efficiently both in terms of processing speed and battery consumption.

Report: Sources suggest Apple has succeeded in creating a screen-integrated Touch ID sensor

Apple has succeeded at integrating Touch ID technology into the display of the next-generation iPhone, according to a new report unearthed by MacRumors. The original report comes from Chinese-language site Economic Daily News, which claims to have received the information from sources at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), one of Apple’s key suppliers. TSMC sources apparently confirmed Apple’s achievement during a technology convention earlier this week in Taipei. At the symposium, TSMC reportedly discussed the lack of a home button on the redesigned OLED iPhone, attributing it to Apple’s implementation of “an optical fingerprint sensor to enable authentication directly on the screen.”

Apple announces Live Stream of WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple has added an events page for its upcoming WWDC 2017 Keynote, confirming that the Jun. 5 event will be live streamed, similar to prior years. As usual, Apple will use its own HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) technology introduced in 2010 to broadcast the event so that users of any relatively recent iOS or macOS device can view it in the Safari web browser. PC users can view the event using Microsoft Edge on Windows 10; older versions of Windows don’t appear to be supported. For Apple TV users, the event will be broadcast in the Apple Events tvOS app; interestingly it also appears that Apple will still be broadcasting the event to second- and third-generation Apple TV devices, suggesting the “Apple Events” channel will simply appear on these now-discontinued models in time for the event. [via MacRumors]

Wemo to add support for Apple HomeKit

Belkin has announced that it will at long last be bringing HomeKit to its lineup of Wemo home automation accessories. The added compatibility will come in the form of a new HomeKit-enabled Wemo Bridge that will provide the interface between existing Wemo Smart Plugs and Light Switches — including the company’s recently-launched Wemo Dimmer — to enable them to be used with Apple’s HomeKit system. Although Wemo created some of the earliest iOS-based home automation products, for unknown reasons the company was oddly not on board with HomeKit when Apple first launched, leaving Wemo products as outliers in a home automation ecosystem that’s become increasingly dominated by HomeKit accessories due to their higher degree of interoperability. Despite the lack of HomeKit support, Wemo continued to expand its compatibility in other areas, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest, and IFTTT. Much like other HomeKit bridge solutions from companies like Philips and Lutron, the Wemo Bridge will connect to any home Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable, pairing with HomeKit as a single accessory and exposing all associated WeMo devices to the HomeKit platform. The Wemo Bridge for HomeKit is expected to be available later this fall. Pricing will be announced at the time of availability.

Apple creates new Editor-in-Chief position for Apple News

Apple has created a new Editor-in-Chief role for Apple News, appointing veteran editor Lauren Kern to the post, Politico reports (via MacRumors). Describing it as a “move that’s sure to raise eyebrows” in media circles, Politico adds that Kern is one of New York magazine’s “most high-ranking editors” as well as having formerly been a deputy editor at The New York Times Magazine. While there’s no information available on what Kern’s responsibilities will be in the new role, which is an entirely new position within Apple, it obviously suggests that Apple is continuing to forge ahead with its News app and service, possibly taking it in some new directions. Apple has not yet confirmed the hiring, and Kern declined to comment.

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